Understanding the Advertising and Marketing Industries Today

March 10, 2020
Career Development

Decades ago, the advertising world was filled with cushy expense accounts, drivers on standby, and the clout that came with creating moments that shaped attitudes and culture. The industry is different today, but what is the point of drawing the distinction?

How much you know about your industry is knowledge desperately sought after by agencies and in-house teams alike. The depth of your industry awareness can be what tips the scales in your favor as you’re measured against other applicants. And behind every post on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor, these dynamics are almost definitely at play and top-of-mind for recruiters and hiring managers. These are the key issues to know:


First things first, in the day-to-day of marketing, marketers should be aware that social media, internet, and ecommerce retail use are all still growing. Our fiends at Internet Advisor have a superb chart of the growth in numbers along with the most prominent tools and channels practitioners are using to engage these audiences. Have a look!


Boudica Chief Creative Director Joanna Coles told dozens of industry insiders packed inside the AMC near Lincoln Center that people take "any opportunity" to get away from an ad. If you've been on a YouTube binge, you probably get it. Her fellow panelist, Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, noted that 71 percent of people find ads annoying. Naturally, this poses a puzzle for the industries. Part of the problem is that the number of channels to reach people has multiplied, making marketing more expensive and competitive as brands battle for your attention on TikTok, Spotify, Twitch, billboards, and new apps seemingly churned out every week. To compensate, advertisers are flooding channels to reach as many people as possible.


Still, you won't be surprised to learn that about 70 percent of ad spend flows to the largest three tech companies: Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Size gives them abundant control over "ad delivery", or the algorithms that determine where your ads go, what they cost, who sees them, when, and how often.

Then there are the timeline and search algorithms. Facebook's 2019 algorithm update knocked most brands' impressions down, and Google's algorithm updates are notorious among SEO teams for costing companies mind-numbing levels of traffic overnight. Google has begun to phase out third-party cookies - data that captured our browsing choices and destinations - by 2022. This is great for our privacy; some say it's an existential moment for advertisers.

We say those concerns are premature and overblown. Scores of advertisers and analysts are debating ideas like contextual targeting, subscription models (you may have noticed more sites limiting your viewing options unless you sign up), and privacy-focused alternatives to third-party cookies to acclimate to this new reality.

Of course, the bigger they are, the better off agencies and publishers will be. That leads us to a phenomenon that directly impacts the job market.


An expanding industry of start-up channels and a quarto-poly of tech companies - Facebook, Google, and Amazon plus Netflix - dominate our viewing habits. This means that the search for ad revenue spreads thin as the number of channels increases. When taken with signs of a sluggish global economy, you can see how this has created a cycle in which brands are cutting back on their ad budgets. Today, most contracts last for six-months rather than several years. Performance metrics are tight, too. This is why highlighting your achievements and quantifying results where possible on your résumé or CV, along with a strong portfolio, are more important than usual.

Traditional agencies are feeling the pinch. Holding companies like WPP are merging some of their storied agencies, like J. Walter Thompson, to stay agile and responsive to the uncertainty. During typical mergers, there are lay-offs, reshuffled positions, and, sometimes, pay cuts.

We think this is where it helps to keep a network of contacts and, if you can stomach it, a side hustle. Knowing how to ask for flex hours or to transition to part-time is especially useful and acceptable in these situations.


Digital marketing and advertising are in the midst of a rapid infrastructural adjustment. To summarize:

• 71 percent of people try to avoid ads

• Revenue thins out as channels proliferate

• Google, Facebook, and Amazon receive 70 percent of ad spend and control algorithms that have significant influence over a campaign's success

• Chrome is phasing out third-party cookies, leaving agencies to debate contextual targeting, subscriptions, and alternate data

• Holding companies are merging agencies in the face of economic uncertainty and GDPR

If you can demonstrate an awareness of the challenges agencies and brands currently face, hiring managers will trust your knowledge of the industries, of products, and how you can help them overcome the odds they face. That makes you a great investment.

Stay curious